One of Australia's most vocal general aviation lobbies is planning a nationwide body to reverse what it sees as a systematic destruction of private flying in the country. SOS Airports, a single-issue organisation set up to campaign against the activities of Sydney's Bankstown airport operator, plans to change its name from Save Our Sydney Airports to Save Our Secondary Airports and join with pressure groups across the country.
SOS Airports has been fighting a bitter dispute with Bankstown airport, which owns three general aviation airports in western Sydney and, renamed Sydney Metropolitan Bankstown, has just won permission for up to 12 regional scheduled passenger services a day and will become the Sydney hub for the Toll Priority express courier by mid-year. Kim Ellis, Bankstown chief executive, says extension of the runway to around 1,800m (5,900ft) from 1,400m will allow jets up to the size of an Airbus A319 to operate and provide an alternative to Sydney Kingsford Smith for the 1.9 million people in its catchment area. Darrin Ward, SOS Airports president, says the expansion of Bankstown has come at the expense of general aviation, as rent increases have hit its members disproportionately hard.
General aviation airports were privatised in 2003 and the push to make aerodromes profitable has seen a number of clashes between the established GA activity and new airport owners.